Less than a year before the June 2024 elections, the latest polls show that the far-right Vlaams Belang party, which advocates for the independence of the Flemish region, has become the largest political force in the country.
This has the potential to increase tensions between the Dutch-speaking Flemish region in the north of Belgium and the French-speaking Walloon region in the south.
“If they don’t want to sit at the table with us, we do it unilaterally”
“We believe Belgium is a case of forced marriage. If one of the couples wants a divorce, we’ll sit and talk as adults. We have to come to the conclusion of a regular split. If they don’t want to sit down with us, we’ll do it unilaterally,” said party leader Tom Van Grieken, who played a major role in the rise of Vlaams Belang.
Although separatist movements and the tense rivalry between the south and the north have been on the agenda for a long time in Belgium, the division of the country, which is home to a population of 12.6 million, can be seen as a surprise result.
Because the tension between the south and the north has decreased seriously in recent years, and the Flemish people in the country have gained the political rights and mother tongue rights they have been demanding for a long time. However, the votes of Vlaams Belang, who are walking to power, do not come only from the supporters of independence.
“Belang embraces the migration issue. This is the reason behind its success”
Pointing out that irregular migration is seen as the biggest problem in the Flemish region, Nicolas Bouteca at the University of Ghent said, “Vlaams Belang embraces the immigration issue, which is very important for Flemish voters. This is the main reason behind their success.”
A study on the subject revealed that potential voters of Vlaams Belang see immigration as the most important political issue, followed by taxes and the economy. The same research found that reforms to the state structure were given much less attention by the voters.
However, party leader Van Grieken underlines that his party does not hide its support for Flemish independence from anyone.
Van Grieken, who said that the number one item of the program they will implement if they come to power is independence, said, “The idea of independence may not move every voter emotionally, but I don’t think anyone who is against independence will vote for us.”